‘Phlegethon’ in Dante’s Inferno is a river in the Seventh Circle of Hell. That Rick Owens chose to use this as the theme for his Spring Summer 2021 collection is befitting, because of how the year 2020 has played out. However, this is a collection that speaks of defiance, rather than doom, within an atmosphere of threat and uncertainty. 

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Models, raised up in big metal-soled platform boots that looked like parts of fighter jets, strutted in devil-may-care micro shorts with oversized pocket linings exposed. Instead of featuring more black in this collection, there were power reds and bubblegum pinks used in thigh-high boots, sheer tanks, and even a pair of sequinned shorts. There were also jackets harnessed to the waist that trailed like capes, and architectural shoulders, which according to Owens, were an “exaggerated middle finger to doom.” 

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While the collection was on the Paris Fashion Week calendar, the show was in fact held without guests in Lido, a small island on the Venetian Lagoon. This is where Owens often spends his summers. He would walk past the Lido Casino everyday on the way to the beach, and admire this example of 1930’s Italian Rationalist architecture. So he decided to stage his Spring Summer 2021 show here. As models walked the length of the deserted piazza, the sense of desolation (only a small crew was seen standing off to one side), and smoke billowing from smoke machines, completed the dystopian ambiance. 

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